A cease-fire in Gaza
Operation Autumn Clouds failed to obtain its objectives. The declared aim of the operation was not achieved and the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel continues.
Operation Autumn Clouds, which ended yesterday in the Gaza Strip, failed to obtain its objectives. An Israel Defense Forces soldier and 45 Palestinians were killed during the operation. (This number includes only those killed in the village of Beit Hanun.) The IDF wreaked havoc and terror in Beit Hanun and left behind hundreds of wounded, as well as destroyed houses, uprooted orchards and a water system that was brought to a standstill. But despite all this, the declared aim of the operation was not achieved and the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel continues.
This result should not surprise anyone. No military operation which is of reasonable proportions can bring the Qassam fire to a complete halt. Instead, operations of this kind merely increase hatred and thirst for revenge among the entire Palestinian population, which is the true victim of such operations.
Now that the forces have withdrawn from Beit Hanun, it is time to try a different kind of move. Instead of the repeated, futile military operations that do not solve a thing, Israel should declare a complete cease-fire in the Gaza Strip for a predetermined period, during which it will not engage in any violent actions, neither assassinations nor incursions. Simultaneously, it should call on the Palestinians to hold their fire as well.
An initiative of this type might impel the Palestinian Authority to invest more effort in preventing the Qassam fire at Israel. Against the backdrop of the attempt to set up a new unity government, which is currently underway but has not yet borne fruit, one can assume that a cease-fire on Israel's part would also bolster the moderates in the Palestinian camp and bring about the establishment of a government that is less extreme than its predecessor and which could conceivably also be a partner for peace negotiations. The establishment of a Palestinian unity government in the atmosphere of a cease-fire could also be the spark that ignites a diplomatic process.
The Israeli government must not say no to the representatives of the Palestinian unity government as well. Instead, Israel should call on them to come to the negotiating table without prior conditions. The lifting of the economic boycott by Israel, which could also bring about an end to the international boycott, must be the next move if Israel's initiative for a cease-fire is met by a cessation of hostilities on the part of the Palestinians. It has already been proven that it is the Palestinian people who pay the price for the boycott, although even before the boycott, their living conditions were quite unbearable. Nothing is solved by not paying salaries to hundreds of thousands of people for more than half a year. This merely increases the suffering.
The past few months have taught us that military operations and economic boycotts affect the entire population but do not lead to any decisive changes, either politically or militarily. Now is the time to try and change direction - a cease-fire, cancellation of the economic boycott and dialogue with the Palestinians' chosen representatives. Should the Palestinians respond to an initiative of this kind from Israel, the conclusion of Operation Autumn Clouds could yet turn out to be a kind of formative moment in the history of the bloody relations between the two peoples. This is a chance that must not be missed. Israel has nothing to lose from such moves; it can only gain.